India ranks behind Sri Lanka, Bhutan in broadband penetration

India ranks 125th in the world for fixed broadband penetration with only 1.2 per 100 inhabitants having access to fixed broadband against the global average of 9.4 per 100 inhabitants, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in a release today.

India is ranked below Bhutan and Sri Lanka in terms of broadband penetration and the multi-layered structure involved in the decision making for the sector needs to be overhauled, telecom regulator Trai said in a release today.

"India ranks 125th in the world for fixed broadband penetration. Some of our neighbours like Bhutan and Sri Lanka are ahead of us. We need to seriously think about it," Trai chairman Rahul Khullar said while sharing details of recommendations on the subject of 'Delivering Broadband Quickly'.

In terms of household penetration within developing countries, India is ranked 75th with a penetration of 13 per cent. In the wireless broadband space too, India is ranked 113th with a penetration of 3.2 per 100 inhabitants.

In terms of 'ICT access, ICT use and ICT skills' India ranks 129th out of total 166 countries considering countries like Indonesia (106), Sri Lanka (116), Sudan (122), Bhutan (123), Kenya (124) are ranked above India.

India is categorised in the least connected countries group of 42 countries that fall within the low IDI group.

To promote the use of fixed-line broadband, Trai has proposed that the licence fee on the revenues earned from fixed line should be exempted for 5 years.

The regulator also suggested the need to revamp government bodies involved in decision making that impact spread of broadband including that of Wireless Planning Commission (WPC) - custodian of spectrum at Department of Telecom.

Trai said WPC should be converted into an independent body by de-linking it from DoT and suggested that it can be converted into a statutory body reporting to Parliament or any other existing statutory body.

The regulator has said that multi-layered structure for decision making, for National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), is not suitable and structure needs immediate overhaul.

NOFN project aims to spread broadband across 2.5 lakh village panchayats by the end of 2016 but has missed its target of completing roll out in first 50,000 panchayats by March 2015.

The regulator has also called for an audit of spectrum held by all the bodies, including public sector companies and government organizations, to check if it is being used efficiently.

Trai said present usage of spectrum available with government agencies should be reviewed, starting within 6 months, so as to identify the possible areas where spectrum can be refarmed for efficient use.

The regulator expressed concern on government delaying guidelines on spectrum trading and sharing saying that "it is strongly urged that a decision is taken no later than 3 months from now."

It also recommended that the cable operators should be allowed to function as resellers of internet service provider licence and digitisation of cable services should be implemented in tier 2 and 3 cities in a time-bound manner. Trai said that the government needs to encourage local and foreign companies to build data centre parks on the lines of industrial parks.

Trai had issued a consultation paper on `Delivering Broadband Quickly: What do we need to do' on 24 September 2014 to discuss issues contributing to broadband penetration in India and to solicit stakeholders' views on action required to be taken both by the government and the private sector to accelerate the proliferation and use of broadband in the country.

The comments and counter-comments received from the stakeholders were placed on the Trai website. An open house discussion was also held on 30 October 2014 in New Delhi with the stakeholders.